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Hepatitis A - Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Hepatitis A - Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Hepatitis A is a short-term liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus. The below article gives brief details about Hepatitis A.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Mian Shah Yousaf

Published At July 19, 2022
Reviewed AtNovember 10, 2022

Introduction:

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is the cause of Hepatitis A, mostly found in contaminated water, food, unsanitized toilets, and unhygienic areas. This virus is highly contagious. Preventive measures and protocols have to be followed to prevent the disease spread.

What Is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is the inflammation of the liver, highly contagious caused by the Hepatitis A Virus (HAV). It is a vaccine-preventable disease. Unlike Hepatitis B and C, Hepatitis A does not cause chronic liver conditions, but it may undermine symptoms and can lead to acute liver failure.

The common spread of the virus is when an unvaccinated healthy person intakes contaminated food or water or come in contact with the feces of an infected person. Along with this, the infection is also associated with a lack of sanitization, lack of personal hygiene, and oral-anal sex. Hepatitis A occurs at regular intervals and in epidemics worldwide.

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms mostly appear within 14 -28 days after coming in contact with the virus. Sometimes the people with the symptoms get better without any treatment. Adults have more signs and symptoms than children.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Low-grade fever.

  • Dark urine.

  • Gray or dark-colored stools.

  • Tiredness and fatigue.

  • Joint pains.

  • Jaundice.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Upset stomach and pain.

Who Is at High Risk of Getting the Infection?

In high endemic countries, infections of Hepatitis A occur at a very early age. Mostly the age group below six years is asymptomatic but is highly capable of spreading the disease. People who are at high risk are:

  • People who are not vaccinated with the vaccine.

  • Coming in close contact with someone infected.

  • Hemophilia (clotting disorder).

  • Having unprotected sex with an infected person.

  • Men having sex with men.

  • Having recreational drugs, even the drugs which are not injected.

  • Traveling to the countries where the virus spread is more common.

  • Lack of safe water and poor sanitization.

  • Having a family member who is already infected.

  • HIV positive.

Ways in Which We Do Not Get Infected:

  • Hugging an infected person.

  • Coughed or sneezed on by the infected person.

  • From the mother’s breast milk to babies.

How Is the Diagnosis of Hav (Hepatitis A Virus) Made?

  • A physical examination.

  • After the symptom check, a blood test is recommended.

  • Check on high levels of liver enzymes in the blood.

  • IgM (immunoglobulin M) Antibodies levels - mostly stay in the blood post-infection for three months.

  • IgG (immunoglobulin G) Antibody levels - mostly stay in the blood post-infection for a lifetime.

  • If you test positive for IgG but negative for IgM, then it indicates that you had a history of positive infection, but you had vaccinations to protect against it.

  • Additional tests include RT-PCR (reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction).

What Is the Treatment for Hepatitis A?

  • There is no specific line of treatment for the infection. Your health professional will treat you according to the symptoms - Supportive care until the symptoms subside, also keeping a clear check on liver function and being sure about your body's healing capacity.

  • Doctors usually recommend a healthy nutritional diet, an increased intake of fluids, and rest.

  • Have a check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications, and supplements that could damage your liver. Alternate medications are provided accordingly.

  • Avoid alcohol completely - the liver gets pressurized in infected conditions, and it becomes tough to handle both medication and alcohol at the same time. Consuming alcohol may lead to severe liver damage.

  • Usually, the symptoms subside within a few weeks of good care; if the symptoms get worse additional care and hospitalization are required.

  • Make sure you completely recover; if any of the symptoms last more than six months, follow-up with the doctor is required.

What Are the Complications of Hepatitis A?

  • Hepatitis A does not lead to long-term liver damage or chronic liver issues.

  • But complications occur in cases of the old age group and adults who are already having chronic liver issues, also leading to loss of liver function.

  • Rarely, does hepatitis A lead to complications such as liver failure, 95 % of the time, it gets recovered.

How Can Hepatitis A Be Prevented?

  • The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is to get vaccinated.

  • The vaccine prevention is 95 % effective in adults for more than 20 years and 85 % in children for 15 to 20 years. To get more benefits from vaccines, more than one shot is needed.

  • Maintaining sanitization.

  • Avoid contaminated food and water.

  • A habit of washing your hands for 15 to 20 minutes thoroughly, before and after eating food and preparing them, after using the toilet, and after changing diapers.

  • Drink bottled water and avoid drinking local water in developing countries during travel where the risk of HAV is high.

  • Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption.

How to Prevent Spreading Hepatitis A to Others?

  • If you are found positive for the infection, avoid coming in close contact with healthy people.

  • Do not prepare or serve food for other people.

  • Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water helps to maintain hygiene.

  • Inform the details of infection to your health care provider, dentist, and other health care professionals.

  • Inform blood donation camps about your history of hepatitis A before donating blood- If you were infected before 11 years of age, you are eligible to donate blood; in other conditions, refrain from donating.

What Is Hepatitis A Vaccine?

  1. Hepatitis A vaccine is administered right from a child‘s immunization schedule.

  2. Children need two doses of the immunization:

  • First dose - 12 to 23 months of age.

  • Second dose - 6 months later than the first dose.

  1. Other older children and adolescents can be vaccinated by 12 to 18 years of age.

  2. Adults can also get vaccinated who have not been vaccinated before.

  3. If you are traveling to other developing countries where the virus spread is more common, vaccine administration before two weeks is mandatory to avoid infection.

What Are the Vaccination Reactions?

  • Soreness and redness at the injection site.

  • Loss of appetite, headache, and tiredness.

  • Some people faint after medical procedures or vaccination. Do inform your medical provider if you feel dizzy, ringing in your ears, or vision changes.

Conclusion:

Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease that needs immediate attention and care. So it is necessary to follow all the protocols to control the spread to others. The vaccine is bliss, so getting vaccinated and maintaining hygiene can prevent this disease successfully. The best way to recover is to take a rest, drink plenty of fluids and take a healthy diet. It is more common in parts of Asia, Africa, central and south America, and Europe than in the United States. Talk with the health care provider about a healthy diet and avoid consuming alcohol which may lead to more complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Can Hepatitis A Be Treated?

Yes, Hepatitis A can be treated with the following measures mentioned below, as the liver can heal independently.
- Avoid alcohol consumption.
- Drink enough fluids.
- Take complete rest.
- A regular check-up with the specialist is a must.
- Follow a nutritious diet.

2.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis A?

After a few weeks of contracting hepatitis A, the following signs and symptoms may arise.
- Upper right abdominal pain.
- Pain in the joints.
- Fatigue.
- Itching.
- Dark-colored urine.
- Loss of appetite.

3.

What Foods Should I Not Eat With Hepatitis A?

Experts suggest avoiding the below-listed foods with hepatitis A is better.
- Shellfish.
- Untreated water.
- Uncooked veggies.
- Raw fruits.

4.

Who Is More Prone to Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A may occur at any age and is more common in children who are not vaccinated for hepatitis. However, when it comes to gender, studies show that the occurrence of hepatitis A is high in males than in females with a ratio of 3.8 :1. The following individuals may have an increased risk.
- HIV-positive person.
- Sexual contact with a hepatitis-infected partner.
- Use of illegal drugs, etc.

5.

Is Hepatitis A Found in Foods?

Hepatitis A may spread through contaminated foods that include the following mentioned below.
- Shellfish.
- Ice.
- Uncooked vegetables.
- Raw fruits.
- Untreated water.

6.

Is Hepatitis A Contagious?

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious condition that spreads in the following manners.
- One person to another - Physical or sexual contact with an infected person may increase the risk for hepatitis A.
- Consumption of contaminated foods.

7.

Is Hepatitis A Considered Life-Threatening?

Hepatitis A does not lead to severe complications, as in many individuals, it may get resolved within a few weeks. However, in specific individuals, it may lead to life-threatening complications, especially in patients with:
- Increased age.
- History of liver disorders.
- Death may occur in case of liver failure.

8.

What Happens if I Kiss Someone With Hepatitis A?

Studies show that a person may get hepatitis A through sexual contact with another infected person. However, transmission through saliva than through a kiss is less common. In addition, the most common mode of spread is through consuming foods contaminated by the stool of an individual with hepatitis A and through oral-anal sex.

9.

Is a Vaccine Required for Hepatitis A?

Vaccine against hepatitis A is crucial, as the risk of acquiring hepatitis A is less in vaccinated individuals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that a vaccine against hepatitis A is essential to prevent severe liver disorders. Hence it is also recommended in infants from 6 months of age. If the vaccine is missed, it can be taken between 2 to 18 years to prevent hepatitis A.

10.

Can Hepatitis Spread Through Touch and Saliva?

When you tend to take care, be in sexual contact, or use illegal drugs with an infected person, the chance of getting hepatitis A is higher. However, staying close to an infected person who had improperly washed hands after using the toilets can also transmit hepatitis A. In addition, it is proven that the primary mode of hepatitis A transmission is through the oral-anal route. Therefore, the best way to protect yourself is through vaccination.

11.

How to Recover Fast From Hepatitis A?

The below-mentioned measures might help in faster recovery from hepatitis A.
- Be hydrated.
- Take rest.
- Eat nutritious and cooked foods.
- Avoid alcohol consumption.
- Take the suggested medicines by the doctor to get symptomatic relief.
- Avoid uncooked and raw foods.
- Wash your hands properly after toilet use to prevent the spreading of hepatitis A.

12.

Does Hepatitis A Remain Contagious for a Long Time?

A person may quickly spread the infection to others after acquiring the virus, even before the symptoms appear. However, young and healthy adults may recover from the disease within two weeks, after which they do not spread it. In addition, studies show that the level of the hepatitis A virus is high in stools during the first two weeks of infection. Individuals with poor immune systems can spread the disease or remain infectious for six months.

13.

How Many Hepatitis A Vaccines Are Needed?

Most vaccines require a booster dose to improve the body’s immune response. Likewise, two doses of hepatitis A are recommended for children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first dose for children is provided between 12 to 23 months, followed by a second dose after six months. Therefore, unvaccinated children can get their shots between 2 to 18 years to prevent themselves from hepatitis A infection.

14.

Can Hepatitis A Spread From a Toilet Seat?

Yes, spreading the hepatitis A virus from the toilet seat is possible. It is because the concentration of the hepatitis A virus is high in the stools of an infected person. Therefore, inadequate hand hygiene after using toilets, touching toilet seats, or changing diapers may increase the risk of contracting the virus. Significantly, the contaminated foods or objects by the feces of an infected person lead to hepatitis A infection.

15.

How Long Does the Effectiveness of Hepatitis A Stay?

A person may stay immune from hepatitis A for ten years after the first dose of the hepatitis vaccine. However, the vaccine's effectiveness lasts almost 25 years in fully vaccinated adults. In addition, the children may stay protected from hepatitis A for 14 to 20 years after two complete doses. Therefore, it proves the effectiveness of the hepatitis A vaccine to stay longer and protecting us from infectious liver disorders.
Dr. Mian Shah Yousaf
Dr. Mian Shah Yousaf

Medical Gastroenterology

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